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Cycling News and Analysis

News for July 24, 1998

The drugs scandal widens

3 more top officials from the Festina team who were kicked out of the Tour last week for systematic doping were arrested on Thursday. The two assistant managers Miguel Moreno and Michel Gros and the director of tactics appeared in front of the investigating judge Patrick Keil. A Belgian judge Eric Van de Sijpe investigating the case now has medical records and computer files which prove that the riders on the team were using EPO.

The Belgian judge ordered a physical search ofr the offices of the Belgian doctor who worked for Festina. The search found computer files in code with extensive details of EPO usage by specific riders and other related data. March the judge ordered a search of the The judge will relay his own data to the French police to help them in their own investigations.

6 riders from Festina have been questioned at a Lyon police station. Richard Virenque, Pascal Herve, Didier Rous, Alex Zulle, Armin Meier and Laurent Dufaux were asked to appear at the station. And Richard Virenque is due to appear before a judge to answer questions as to his involvement in the affair.

Meanwhile TVM manager Cees Priem, team docter Andrei Michailov and a mechanic are under arrest after the French police raided the Hotel de la Rocade in Pamiers on Thursday morning. There is no clear statement yet but it is believed that it relates to the incident in March when the TVM truck was stopped in north-east France and was found to be carrying 104 ampules of EPO. The management of TVM were unable to locate the three detained officials.

As French police began questioning cyclists from the disgraced Festina team Thursday, the doping scandal overshadowing the Tour de France grew still further when investigators summoned officials from the TVM team.

The UCI has now asked Dutch Cycling Federation officials to do their own investigation into the incident and also the Tour de France organisation are now threatening to kick TVM out of the race.

It is now known that police also found drug evidence in a suitcase and a rubbish bin in TVM's hotel room in Toulouse and Metz. Nothing more is known about this.

While Bruno Roussel has taken responsibility for the systematic doping of Festina riders the web goes deeper. The lawyer for the Belgian team doctor Erik Rijckaert issued a statement from him which has claimed that: "The riders were forced to deposit race bonuses in a slush fund destined to buy doping products."

And investigators are also trying to work out why there were so much drugs seized in the vehicle driven by Willy Voet. Voet has now said that they were only for Festina. But there were too bigger a volume for that.

The Italian Association of Professional Cyclists have called for blood tests, instead of urine tests to help stop the cheats. They issued a statement which said: "It is vitally important for everyone in cycling... to realise how indispensable such a step is to make it possible to detect certain substances during testing.''

And tradition of the TVM team has been cancelled. There will be no mussel party on the rest day of the Tour de France. The party is usually visited by large numbers of people who visit the Tour de France. The management of the TVM is not in a party mood and some are still being held for questioning.